A Master in our midst
Je Kyoung Kim is an Olympic gold medalist and three-time world champion in taekwondo and is now instilling his knowledge to locals
It may seem like an unlikely setting, but one of the world's most decorated taekwondo masters is currently passing on his wisdom in West Linn and Lake Oswego.
Je Kyoung Kim is a three-time world champion in the sport and an Olympic gold medalist and was one of the premier athletes in taekwondo for the better part of a decade.
Kim dominated the heavyweight division, winning virtually every international competition he competed in.
Kim began studying the martial art of takekwondo when he was seven years old and took to it quickly, thriving in the sport's discipline and technique.
Taekwondo teaches respect and discipline through sport. You bow to each other and the referees and to the head tables and other masters after each round. You start and finish with respect. That is the most important thing, Kim said.
He would major in physical education in college and spent three years in the Korean military, also competing for the army's taekwondo team.
Mastering his craft took an enormous amount of dedication. His daily routine featured cross country conditioning, weight training and even a weekly climb up a mountain nicknamed Crying Hill.
You have to work on patience and controlling your emotions. I said after I retire I don't want to be disappointed so I gave 100 percent effort, Kim said.
Kim found instant success when he began competing at high-profile events. At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, taekwondo was an exhibition sport and he captured the gold medal for Korea.
The next year, he won the first of his three world championships. For the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, taekwondo was not featured but it was announced that it would become an officially sanctioned sport for the 2000 games in Sydney.
Kim put all of his focus on the 2000 Olympics and easily qualified for the games as he strived for another gold medal.
However, just one month before the games, Kim injured his hamstring and he was unable to compete. His spot went to teammate Kim Kyong-Hun, who took second place behind Kim at the Olympic trials and Kyong-Hun would go on to capture the gold medal that year.
It was difficult but I was very happy for my teammate, Kim said.
Shortly after finishing his competitive career, Kim received a call from a former teacher, B.C. Kim, who captured the featherweight taekwondo gold medal in Barcelona.
B.C. Kim had opened up World Champion Tae Kwon Do, a training facility in Oregon and he offered Je Kyoung Kim the chance to come teach with him.
Kim had done coaching previously in the military and was a captain on the Olympic team but had never worked with beginners in taekwondo. Not only that, Kim also spoke virtually no English, but he was excited for the opportunity and made the move to the Pacific Northwest.
Just as he dedicated himself to become an elite martial artist, Kim threw himself into teaching. He picked up the language quickly and gives much of that credit to his students.
I knew it would be hard to leave my country but it's very nice here and I am also learning from my students. They teach me a lot, Kim said.
Kim now seeks to pass on his knowledge of the sport he loves to a younger generation as a Master at three locations in West Linn and Lake Oswego. His goal is not so much to develop world-class athletes but instead to instill the benefits of taekwondo in his students.
My goal is to help each student get the success they want and to teach respect, Kim said.
While Kim is very highly thought of by his fellow instructors and his students, he is quick to credit others as well.
I'm very proud of the students and staff and I'm happy I can share that energy, Kim said.
World Champion Tae Kwon Do has locations in Mt. Park and downtown Lake Oswego as well as on Salamo Road in West Linn.
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